By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) – South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday that his country will continue to resist calls to abandon its independent and non-aligned foreign policy.
“South Africa has not been and will not be drawn into a contest between global powers. We will maintain our position on the peaceful resolution of conflict wherever those conflicts occur,” Ramaphosa said during his Africa Day speech in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
Last week, the president said his country’s “non-aligned” position does not favor Russia over other countries and that it will not be pressured to change its stance.
“With the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, there has been extraordinary pressure on the country to abandon its non-aligned position and take sides in what is in effect a contest between Russia and the West,” Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly column last week.
The South African president's remarks came after the US ambassador to the country, Reuben Brigety, told reporters that Washington was convinced that South Africa had supplied arms to the Russian army, despite the country's claim to be neutral.
Brigety claimed that a Russian cargo ship, the Lady R, which docked at the Simon's Town naval base near Cape Town between Dec. 6 and Dec. 8, last year, had loaded weapons and ammunition and it made its way back to Russia.
Ramaphosa said since there is no concrete evidence to support the allegation, the government is establishing an independent inquiry headed by a retired judge to determine the facts.
The US ambassador later apologized to the government and people of South Africa for his comments, according to a statement by South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).
In his Thursday speech, the president said, “We are now also witnessing Africa being dragged into conflicts far beyond our own borders.”
“Some countries, including our own, are being threatened with penalties for pursuing an independent foreign policy and for adopting a position of non-alignment,” he said.
He did not, however, specify the penalties or who is threatening them.
Ramaphosa said African countries have painful memories of foreign superpowers conducting proxy wars on African soil.
“We have not forgotten the terrible, brutal legacy of first having our continent carved up and colonized by European countries, only to find ourselves once more pawns on a chessboard during the Cold War,” he said, adding that “we are not going back to that period in history.”